Hill Sprints: How to Build Muscle and Burn Fat
They were the choice of NFL legends Jerry Rice and Walter Payton and should be your primary conditioning workout, too. This is because no other cardio workout produces results as quickly. The burning pain doing them creates builds mental toughness that will make you a better competitor too.
My Personal Experience With Hill Sprints
I began doing hill sprints several months ago and am as fit as I’ve been since I stopped playing competitive soccer after college. Within a few weeks of running hills I lost 10 pounds of fat without changing how I eat.
My joints don’t hurt like they used to when I would run sprints on flat ground, even though I am a decade older. The speed at which I recover between sets in the weight room is also improved as well.
Now that you know how great running hills are for your physical and mental fitness, it’s time to learn how to add them to your workouts. Below are a few guidelines for you to follow. Use it as a template to create your own program.
Step 1 - Find A Hill
The best way to find a good hill is to drive around your neighborhood and look for a hill that is at least 40 yards long. The longer the better. The hill should be steep enough so that it is challenging for you to walk up and down. The steeper the better, too.
If you can’t find a good hill this way, Google terms like sledding hills, landfills, and whatever else may work for your neighborhood. You should eventually be able to find something. Steep staircases are an adequate substitute as a last resort. If you’re going to run stairs, try to at least find a set that’s made from wood.
Step 2 - Go To The Hill And Get Ready
Begin your workout with a light warm-up. This will help prepare your body for the brutal workout ahead. I like to warm-up by performing 10-15 minutes of calisthenics and dynamic stretches. This includes arm circles, burpees, high kicks, jumping jacks and squats. Do 5 sets of each exercise for 5-10 reps and you’ll be ready to go.
Step 3 - Time To Run
Before you sprint make sure you have your technique down. Below are several tips to ensure you perform your sprints with proper form:
- Keep your chin up and eyes forward. Don’t look down no matter how tired you get.
- Your chest should be out and shoulders back as you run up the hill.
- Don’t clench your fists. Instead, lightly squeeze your fists or run with hands open.
- Keep your arms bent at a 90-degree angle and move them up and down. Don’t let them cross over your body as you run.
- Pick your knees up high as you run and keep your hips forward. Never move from side to side.
- Push explosively off the balls of your feet with every step. Your heels shouldn’t make contact with the ground.
The first time you run hills I recommend not doing more than 5 sprints at about 75% of your maximum effort. They really are brutal and you don’t want to burn yourself out on the first set. Increase your intensity with every sprint.
Add 1-2 sprints per week until you are performing 20 per workout with maximum effort.
Step 4 - Cool Down
Finish your workout by walking on flat ground until you are able to breath normally. You can then perform 10-15 minutes of static stretching for all of your major muscle groups to keep from getting tight.
When You Should Do Hill Sprints
The best time to perform this workout is after you lift weights. This will keep your strength from being compromised in the weight room. If you can’t do your sprints shortly after you lift weights, do them several hours later or on your day off.
How Often Should You Do Hill Sprints
Start with 2 weekly workouts and increase to 4-5 per week over the course of a few months. Once you can do 20 hill sprints 4-5 times a week you will be in the best shape of your life. Guaranteed.
Making Your Workout More Challenging
Once you can perform 20 hill sprints with good technique it’s time to make the workout more challenging. Below are several ways to do so. Only try one of these at a time. Include more as your conditioning improves.
- Add an additional workout later in the week.
- Increase the distance you sprint.
- Decrease the amount of time you rest between eat sprint by running down the hill instead of walking.
- Wear a weighted vest.
- Perform a set of another exercise (i.e. bodyweight squats, kettlebell swings, push ups) before each sprint.